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J Immunol. 2003 Oct 1;171(7):3863-71.

Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) inhibits constitutive and IL-6-inducible STAT3 phosphorylation in human multiple myeloma cells.

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  • 1Cytokine Research Section, Department of Bioimmunotherapy, Unit 143, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Numerous reports suggest that IL-6 promotes survival and proliferation of multiple myeloma (MM) cells through the phosphorylation of a cell signaling protein, STAT3. Thus, agents that suppress STAT3 phosphorylation have potential for the treatment of MM. In the present report, we demonstrate that curcumin (diferuloylmethane), a pharmacologically safe agent in humans, inhibited IL-6-induced STAT3 phosphorylation and consequent STAT3 nuclear translocation. Curcumin had no effect on STAT5 phosphorylation, but inhibited the IFN-alpha-induced STAT1 phosphorylation. The constitutive phosphorylation of STAT3 found in certain MM cells was also abrogated by treatment with curcumin. Curcumin-induced inhibition of STAT3 phosphorylation was reversible. Compared with AG490, a well-characterized Janus kinase 2 inhibitor, curcumin was a more rapid (30 min vs 8 h) and more potent (10 micro M vs 100 micro M) inhibitor of STAT3 phosphorylation. In a similar manner, the dose of curcumin completely suppressed proliferation of MM cells; the same dose of AG490 had no effect. In contrast, a cell-permeable STAT3 inhibitor peptide that can inhibit the STAT3 phosphorylation mediated by Src blocked the constitutive phosphorylation of STAT3 and also suppressed the growth of myeloma cells. TNF-alpha and lymphotoxin also induced the proliferation of MM cells, but through a mechanism independent of STAT3 phosphorylation. In addition, dexamethasone-resistant MM cells were found to be sensitive to curcumin. Overall, our results demonstrated that curcumin was a potent inhibitor of STAT3 phosphorylation, and this plays a role in the suppression of MM proliferation.

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